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In Texas, Laredo's Mayor Weighs In On Proposed Border Security Deal

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For a reaction now, we're going to turn to Pete Saenz. He's the mayor of Laredo, Texas, and the chairman of the Texas Border Coalition, a group of officials from along the border. Saenz and his organization support the bipartisan funding agreement, but he's less certain about the president's plan to declare a national emergency as he signs the bill, which Saenz learned about as we were speaking.

PETE SAENZ: In our area, we don't see that national emergency. If he can - yeah, we just don't see it, frankly, here. So we just - I need to wait and see what time brings and what the law - the application of the law and see where it takes us.

CORNISH: If you don't see an emergency, the kind of emergency the president talks about, what are your concerns about the kinds of actions he'd take?

SAENZ: Well, again, I know he's been very insistent. And us here at the border have been very diligently trying to work with the people - the bipartisan folks that have been of some aid to us along these lines. Now he's - if he takes that position, that posture, then so be it. I mean, we'll deal with it as it unfolds. But for the time being, we would encourage more compromise.

We would encourage less fencing, less physical barriers unless they do something that would suit the needs of the local communities and take the local input by way of coming up with some sort of resolution to those border needs.

CORNISH: When you say there's no emergency, then does a move like this undermine all the work that's been done to come up with a compromise bill?

SAENZ: I don't think so. I think Congress now sees that we're moving in the right direction by way of compromise. And that's the only way we can make things work, at least in our eyes. And again, we encourage that. Hopefully Congress can continue this format of compromise and avoid, you know, further - at least in our humble opinion unnecessary expenditures in areas that don't need this physical barrier.

Now, other areas may need it if they're strategically required. And this is why I think we need to see what exactly this national emergency position that our president is taking, see what areas will be impacted directly by that. I hope our area is not.

CORNISH: What's your message to a president who insists that there is an emergency on the border, that it is a crisis of crime and danger, when you, the mayor there, don't feel that way?

SAENZ: Well, again, our position has been just look at the data, primarily South Texas or even from El Paso to Brownsville. The Texas-Mexico border on the Texas side is very safe and safer than most cities our size or even smaller. So the data is conclusive, and it's definitive as far as how safe we are. So maybe in his way of measuring, his degree of emergency is something a lot less. Well, that's obviously - that's his position.

Now, as far as crises and emergencies, you know, obviously when Border Patrol people confront bad people coming - because we do have bad people not to the extent or degree that Washington describes it. But obviously, that could be a personal crisis when they encounter these folks. But to increase it or raise it to a national crisis, I mean, we here in the border don't see that. And I say that with respect to our president.

CORNISH: Peter Saenz is mayor of Laredo, Texas, and chairman of the Texas Border Coalition. Thank you for speaking with us.

SAENZ: Thank you so much for the opportunity. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.